Traficant Collects Campaign Donations From Behind Bars

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant may be sitting in a Pennsylvania prison cell, but he still is collecting campaign donations from supporters across the nation.

Campaign finance reports submitted to the Federal Elections Commission this week showed that Traficant's campaign has received about $26,300 in gifts between July 1 and Sept. 30.

Traficant, a Democrat from Youngstown, was expelled from the House on July 24 after he was convicted in a federal court of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence while also running for re-election to his old seat as an independent.

Lloyd D. Emch, a retired telephone company worker from Wadsworth, Ohio, believes Traficant has the kind of political backbone that is needed to help the blue-collar northeast Ohio district he represented in Congress for 18 years.

"I have empathy for him. I do not feel that he got a fair trial," said Emch, a former Youngstown resident. He is one of three people who gave Traficant's campaign $1,000.

Las Vegas hotel owner Edgar Wrenn and Mesquite, Nev., retiree Shirley Packer also gave the campaign $1,000 each.

Immants Lukis, a retired construction worker from Tinley Park, Ill., sent the campaign $110 during the summer and $100 before that, records showed.

"I don't really know him, but I'm quite a fan of his. I've noticed the courage he's shown trying to stick up for people," said Lukis, who believes Traficant is innocent.

The remaining donations to the Traficant campaign were smaller gifts, many of which came with cards or good luck notes, campaign treasurer Robert Barrett said.

During the same reporting period, the campaign spent $11,707 for expenses and campaign materials, which included T-shirts, bumper stickers and a newspaper advertisement.

Traficant had $48,345 left to spend in his race against Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican Ann Womer Benjamin in the Nov. 5 election. The total reflects funds raised earlier in the year.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)